Thursday 19 September 2019

'I looked out my front window and saw guys with balaclavas shooting ...'

Herald's Alan O'Keeffe talking to Bertie Ahern.
Herald's Alan O'Keeffe talking to Bertie Ahern.

The peace of one of the most tranquil neighbourhoods in all Dublin was ripped apart by the brutal gun murder of Paul Kavanagh.

Church Avenue is a quiet road with red-bricked period homes nestling at the rear of All Hallows College in Drumcondra.

The branches of large trees in the college grounds reach over the stone-built demesne wall into the stillness of the sleepy residential road.

But the location was the chosen for a murderous ambush by masked gunmen who shot Kavanagh to death in his car. Another car then burst into flames, filling the street with black smoke until the scene resembled a war zone. Residents were appalled, including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who found it hard to believe what had happened.

Local women spoke of seeing gunmen in balaclavas and said they heard bursts of gunfire.

Primary school pupils were in classrooms close-by and there was relief that children were not caught up in the shooting.

"I heard a lot of shots," one shocked woman said. "I was in my kitchen and heard about eight shots. I looked out my front room window and saw guys in balaclavas and there was shooting happening.

"Immediately, a car went up in flames which appeared to have crashed in the narrow area of Church Avenue. With the shooting I ducked down. I retreated to the back of my house," she said.

Former Taoiseach Bertie was visibly shaken as he stood near where the killing took place.

"This is my area, I grew up here and I am shocked by this," he told the Herald. "I don't know what the shooting was about but it's terrible that such a thing can happen in broad daylight.

"My brother and his family live just around the corner," he added.

A middle-aged woman said: "I was cleaning the windows when I heard a 'bang, bang, bang' and 'bang'... And then there was a gap and I heard four more shots... It might have been five shots at first and then more shots.

"I saw flames over the wall. I thought there might be a fire in my neighbour's. I grabbed my jacket and ran up and I saw there was a white car on fire in the middle of the road. There was black smoke and you couldn't see through it," she said.

At the junction of Grace Park Road and Church Avenue, people stood behind garda scene-of-crime tape and spoke of their shock.

"It happened very close to a school. There are a lot of children around. Innocent people could have been hurt," a creche worker said.

"Thank God no children were involved," a woman working in a local business agreed. "I could hear the police helicopter and all the sirens. I though it was a bank raid but it's horrific someone has lost his life."

A 56-year-old father-of-two found it hard to come to terms with the violence.

"Things like that don't happen around here. Drumcondra is a nice, quiet area. It's shocking someone has been killed," he said.

A middle-aged woman who was attending a function in All Hallows College was disturbed by the brazen nature of the attack.

"It was so early in the day and so public. Murders usually happen under the veil of darkness but now it's seems to be getting so commonplace. To think it happened at the back of All Hallows.

"The college is a little oasis where people can come to relax and find peace."

A woman visiting her elderly aunt said it was a "dreadful" act.

"My aunt is shocked. This whole gangland thing is deeply embedded."

"Nothing like this has happened here before," a 30-year-old man said. "It's something you read about in the newspapers but never here. It's hard to believe."

Local Fianna Fail councillor Paul McAuliffe said criminals operating in Dublin "are becoming more brazen, more public and more brutal."


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